St James and pilgrim shell

Today we liturgically remember a witness of the Lord, Saint James the Greater, Apostle.

Sadly, we also must pray for the 77 people killed, and countless others injured, in a train accident on the 24th in Compostela; some headed home, many going for the annual feast.

James was one of the witnesses of the Transfiguration and one of those who slept through most of the Agony in the Garden. He was the first of the apostles to be martyred. The Tradition of the Church says that the relics of Saint James were brought to Spain sometime after his martyrdom. The shrine at Compostela is one the greatest pilgrimage center in western Europe. One of the symbols of Saint James is the scallop-shell, is also the emblem of pilgrims generally.

As Dom Alban Hood said in his homily today at his Abbey in England:

It’s easy for us to criticize James and John and their mother, as if none of us at some time or another have not been guilty of having made selfish requests of God! Yet the lives of these people give us hope that as our relationship with God matures, human selfishness might be replaced by service. For his part, St. James did indeed achieve that greatness he desired. But he did so only through service- by drinking the chalice of Jesus, and giving his life for him.

Today’s feast is an opportunity for us to ask ourselves: Are we selfish, or are we servants? St Paul reminded us a moment ago that the treasure of God’s power within us belongs to him, not us and is carried through this life in earthenware vessels. We may yearn for status and a sense of importance, even an entry in Who’s Who but Jesus and the scriptures remind us that God’s way is radically different from human standards and values.

James truly was a Son of Thunder and had learnt bravely that to be on the right hand or the left hand of Jesus in glory, was to experience something of the pain and ignominy of Calvary.

Saint James, pray for Spain, and pray for each of us!